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A trip to Lambeau (11/25/2007)
By John Edstrom

For most Winona men and many of the women heading north of the wintry years beyond age 55, early memories of fall Sundays revolve around groups of people gathered for worship, not around some church altar, but the new TV set broadcasting the Green Bay Packers game from Lambeau Field, or in those days, County Stadium in Milwaukee. Some guy named Lombardi had arrived from the East Coast and was leading the Packers to the promised land, and it was a magical experience to watch the Pack (this was long before Mike Royko had dubbed them, for all time, the Cheeseheads) as they knocked off their Big City rivals week after week. To this day around here that age group is split about 50-50 in their loyalties between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.

And the cult of the Cheeseheads has its own Haj requirement, a pilgrimage to Lambeau on a fall Sunday to view the Pack's renewal of the ancient quest. Nonbelievers who make the journey had better go under false colors or risk being stoned, or perhaps "beered" is a more accurate term for the modern practice. Therefore I retrieved my winter coat from the dry cleaner's, coincidentally a Green Bay green, or something close. A friend, Mike (Spike) Norris of the Walz automotive agency, had tickets for the Green Bay/Carolina game last Sunday, and had extended an invitation to me and my associate, Patrick P. Marek, to accompany him there.

After a long, dismal, early morning drive across the frozen wastes of mid-Wisconsin, only here and there brightened by a splash of hunters orange, we wended our way through the back streets of Green Bay, a secret short cut of Spike's to Lambeau that avoided the worst of the crowds. Driving through streets of modest homes, ramblers and ranches, but all faced with brick - no one likely to pull stakes and head for California any time soon here! - suddenly, there it was, Lambeau Field, looming like a castle or cathedral in a medieval town. High overhead, private jets circled and descended one after another into the small local airport, visitors from another world.

We wandered onto the vast Lambeau complex, the stadium with its connecting annex and surrounding blocks of bars, restaurants, and shops, and, after cleansing our palates from the dirt and dust of the road with a local brew or two, headed towards the main entrance into the stadium to find our seats. The crowd, compressing and funneling through the turnstiles, grew densely packed, rather uncomfortable for most. Some guy next to us, who had already had a long day, brandished the hand of a female mannequin, an unhealthy gray in color, with which he alternately picked his nose and groped guys who were ahead of him in the press.

Looking up, I noticed it was the Oneida entrance to Lambeau, the name of a late nineteenth century religious colony, somewhat like the Shakers, except they were noted for a variety of odd sexual practices rather than none at all. Patrick claims he was goosed several times, which he attributed to an attitude produced in women by the long absence of their husbands on deer-hunting expeditions. I wasn't so sure.

During halftime ceremonies I discovered that the Oneida reference was not to the colony, but the nation, one of the five original members of the Iroquois confederacy, the only one that stood with the American colonists against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. A group of them performed a dance commemorating, as near as I could tell, the service of their members in the Gulf Wars. Some dressed in native costume, some in army camo, they advanced, to the beat of drums, from one goal line to another, the whole ceremony culminating in a fusillade of rifle fire. This was well and enthusiastically received by the crowd, except for a few louts who amused themselves by shouting bingo. I had an odd memory of my old college roommate, blushing furiously, back from the bars of Appleton, demonstrating how he had learned to dance - the Monkey.

Soon, the second half began, and the crowd was well into it. Patrick, whose Fantasy Football fortunes rested partially on the Carolina quarterback's performance shouted, in an unexpected moment of relative silence, "Testaverde, you suck!" This was met with a cheer of immense approval and amusement from those around us, and then a few moments later, inarticulate bellows of disapproving rage when an over-enthusiastic Packer was flagged for tossing Vinny nearly into the stands - "Let ‘em #*!&# play!" The roars were now accompanied by heavy showers of beer, (back to the cleaners with the green coat) and shirts were coming off, but unlike at the Jets stadium, from the guys, not the gals. This was definitely a primitive behavior, along with the prohibition of beer beginning with the fourth quarter, so we made our getaway to Curly's Pub in the stadium annex. There, we enjoyed a few more beers and on TV, the end of the lopsided contest.

After a while, a chorus of giggling, singing girls came running down the bar, pummeling all men seated there with the red sponge rubber cheering wands issued to everyone as they went through the turnstiles.

It was time to go.




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